Masters champ Reed equal parts superhero, antihero

Captain America fought off some determined challengers last week and won the day, as a superhero does, but rather than a ticker-tape parade, he was feted only with scattered golf clapping.

Patrick Reed won the Masters golf tournament last Sunday, becoming the most villainous champion at Augusta National since Bubba Watson.

Wait … Captain America a villain? Antiheroes on the golf course are about as rare as nuns in a street gang, so the route taken by Reed in becoming a tour pariah became an interesting sidebar to his stellar play on the day’s final round.

In addition to being two of the PGA Tour’s brightest young stars, Watson and Reed are also reputed to be two of the least-liked, which made for a tepid reaction to Reed’s winning the green jacket.

Watson is disliked because he’s boorish and abrasive. Same for Reed, who was shunned by his college teammates at the University of Georgia — one of whom accused him of stealing money and a putter from him. Reed was booted from the team for an alcohol-related infraction and what a Georgia assistant coach cited as Reed’s “character issues,” which probably went beyond not replacing his divots.

After leaving Georgia, Reed enrolled at Augusta State and led the team to Division I national titles in 2010 and 2011, but didn’t win any friends there, either.

How much of his teammates’ contempt was merited and how much stemmed from jealous envy is unclear. Generally, nonviolent screw-ups committed at college age are forgivable, but in the arena of public perception among his peers today, the 27-year-old Reed dug his own hole a few years ago by running his yap.

After winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship in 2014, the rankings-obsessed Reed proclaimed himself to be a top-five player in the world, despite his being only No. 44 before his win and No. 20 afterward. Predictably, this rankled some folks, not the least of whom were Nos. 1-19.

If you are great enough – as Reed may turn out to be – others will sing your praises. They may even call you a top-fiver in the world. Blow your own horn and people eventually tune out, superhero or not.

Reed got the nickname “Captain America” through his success at the Ryder Cup, where in two appearances representing the U.S. against Europe he has a record of six wins, one loss and two draws.

Fowler, the Tour’s eighth-ranked player, is 2-4-5. Fourth-ranked Jordan Spieth is 4-3-2. Dustin Johnson, the current No. 1 player on Tour, is 6-5 and Watson, the 2012 and 2014 Masters champ, is 5-5.

Wither the big guns? All-time greats Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have thrilled galleries over the years but at the Ryder Cup they’ve been Yankee Doodle Duds, Woods going 13-17-3 in seven tournaments and Mickelson 18-20-7 in 11 Ryder Cup appearances.

At the 2016 Ryder Cup in Minnesota, Reed defeated Rory McElroy 1-up to help the U.S. to its first win since 2008. The seeds of a personal rivalry were sewn there, as fist-pumping, finger-wagging and gallery-baiting were part and parcel of that emotional showdown.

It was water under the bridge until after the third round last Saturday, when the second-place McElroy – who has won every PGA major tournament except the Masters – hinted that the pressure of winning a major would get the best of Reed over the final round.

Instead, it was McElroy who folded like Superman on laundry day, and Reed who played like a champ. McElroy’s veiled trash talk and Reed’s strong response will help ensure another animated Ryder Cup in France this September.

With the Masters win and three other top-10 finishes, Reed has earned $3.4 million this season, jumping from 28th on the money list to No. 3 this week. He also moved up in the player rankings to No. 11, a 13-spot leap that he is sure to enjoy.

Incidentally, in a top-100 ranking of superheroes done by an entertainment and game company in California, the fictional Captain America was voted No. 6.

Pish. He’s easily a top-five superhero in the world.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@wolfrivermedia.com.